What Happens When I Pursue Business (How I actually cold call)

People say to me – a lot – that I’m a great cold caller.

That somehow I’m gifted at cold calling. I might be. I don’t think so. I think I just do it. Others don’t. I just chase, hunt, help, pursue.

I do it because it’s in their best interests to go with me.

They say it with astonished respect, but they don’t know how I operate. I am not a human boiler room.

40% of my work is done before I call anyone. Finding the right person that fits the right profile is it.

I’m willing to do what others won’t. Because of that, I’ve learned to then do what others can’t. This is the engine that drives things.

I don’t do it as much as people think I did. The Mike Ferry days are over for me- that pressure cooker style is ineffectual and stupid. What’s not stupid is the discipline and hustle it teaches.

Best case scenario – 95% of the time nothing great happens.

What happens when I cold call/initiate contact is about like this (and this isn’t quite scientific):

  • 30% of the time it goes nowhere. The contact is ignored, and noting really happens. Spitting into a trash can.
  • 15% of the time, I humiliate myself and send a ridiculous, irrelevant email that helps to train my people from using me, and my services.
  • 20% of the time I get a polite “no thanks,” or “not right now.”
  • 15% of the time, the person I contact isn’t right for our service, and the discovery process reveals that. This makes for some funny conversations “but…you called me, you must be desperate.”
  • 10% of the time we haggle and the deal doesn’t close. Sometimes we make lifelong friends here.
  • 5% of the time the deal closes.
  • 5% of the time we have a core lifelong customer/friend.
So…this means that 65% of the time there isn’t a great outcome. But…but…it only takes a little while. The 35% of the time, the fact that if I contact 200 people, I’m damn near guaranteed to make 10 friends…that’s what I’m focused on. I can’t help everyone, I can’t work with everyone. Trying is stuid

After this, everyone goes into my CRM. This is everyone I connect with. There are several activity templates set up:

  • Inbound/hot (for people that want us)
  • Interested (for people that may go to the next one)
  • Regular (this means that we connect about once a quarter)
Right now, it’s Batchbook, but when you fish around on this site, you’ll see a lot of stuff about a lot of CRMS. (I still maintain that in 2000, individual CRM peaked with Act 2000).

They have a variety of follow up sequences, and I’m testing if being brash/insulting works better than being pleading/begging. It seems that that’s the case, at least for me. I’ve sold a dozen or more videos by insulting their existing video. “I hope that your product has more care than whoever made that awful video.”

This isn’t the “nicest” way to do things, but it gains respect and demonstrates indifference. People that become our clients on this basis are also under control. When we approach someone with swagger, we inform them how their video will look. When they approach us, it changes the playing field just a little bit and oddly enough, it seems that we have less leverage.

Think about it this way: if you’re dating someone, do you want to pick, or do you want them to pick you? Then, what do you do to control the conversation?

There’s a continuum, but it seems that you get quicker dispensations with brash, and the percentages are about the same. Quicker is better because at least we know about it rapidly and don’t live in delusionland. (If we’re not ever really getting the business, it’s better knowing it.) Long term follow up works but not necessarily with any individual customer. I couldn’t predict that customer X would come back because I emailed a link. I also didn’t do it just to get their business, I did it because I add value.

Brash/unhinged seems to be a way to go. It keeps you from nurturing/chasing the business you weren’t getting anyway. With the CRM, every activity is just one more thing to do, nothing loaded or hard about it.

Ultimately, we have better luck with people I contact than with the folks that come over the transom on our /quote page. There are a lot of people that show up that aren’t yet our “right people” if you would. When I call people, I can create the information flow, and present to them in an intelligent way.

There is a long way to go to improve how we do things, you know? We are far from perfect right now, so we need to improve lots of little things about the way that our business works.

Running Results

This is the same run.

Yes, I know that the split isn’t great, but it was sort of a last minute thing to “tack on” the extra 3.1 miles. I was planning to go 4 and set a record for my 5k time. (I’m just now getting back into running and into shape after a decade break. I can blame Bush for that, too.)

It’s astonishing to me that just 2 months ago – in mid/late December, I didn’t have the capacity to run a 11 minute mile. Legs, lungs and brain all didn’t work.

Longest run that I know of since at least 2004. Maybe longer. I feel pretty good today, I have that vague “runners high” that you get. I slept like the dead last night.

I still need music and a treadmill to run. I have crutches that will go away one by one. This blog is probably something of a crutch.

I’m turning in between 20-25 miles a week.

The first time I ran I felt horrible. Now, sometimes the first mile is rough (oddly, particularly when I take it too slowly).

Then I decided to add some more.  Wasn’t in the plan but for every day that I’ve talked myself out of a mile, I needed a day where I talked myself into one.

So, there’s that.

Freelancing? In a Service Business? Here’s What To Do First…

The first thing that you want to do is get to 50 paying customers as fast as you can.Yo

It doesn’t matter, really, what they are paying. A token wage, an insulting wage.  Whatever it is.  50 customers.  That’s the goal number one.  Everything else follows.  Get to 50 and you have a real business.  At almost any price point.

Why 50?  Partly because it’s a lot, and partly because it’s in site. The idea is that you’ll get good at the mechanics of making the sale. You’ll get insight into what people will want to pay for at something resembling scale.   You’ll probably need to approach 200-400 people to sell something 50 times.  You’ll get to refine your pitch.  You’ll actually have some money and some work.

For some of us it might take 3 months.  For others, a full year.  That’s the focus though, 50. That means that you have safety.  With 50 customers, you control your own destiny.

The beauty of 50 is that if you acquit yourself with aplomb half the time you’ll have the connections of 25 people – or more (some people that you treat poorly become your best referral sources, as odd as that seems).  You’ll probably have the connections of another couple dozen almost sales. 

 During the 50 customer hustle, you’ll say some ridiculous things.

You’ll make some mistakes. You’ll embarrass yourself.  You’ll look stupid.

All of these things will happen at least once.  Possibly more.  Probably more.  It’s OK.  The end of the tunnel means you have something substantive.

You’ll over reach, you’ll wear out one of your connections.  Someone will think you’re lame.  50 is a lot of people. Some of those 50 won’t like you.  If 4% hate you, that’s 2 people.  No president – ever – has had a 96% approval rating.

When you get your 50, you’ll be more or less in control of your fate.  You will probably have to change the way that you offer to do things. This is called a pivot.

This is what you focus on. This pays the bills.  A Business Plan will not. A Shiny Website might be needed to sell 50 times, but that is a tool to get to 50.  A brand strategy won’t be meaningful till your brand has encountered 50 people.

A lot of my entrepreneur friends install bottlenecks as a precondition to action.  “I can’t possibly sell anything because my business card isn’t back yet,” or “I have to really plan out my brand strategy before I can sell anything.”  Nonsense.  To sell, you have to connect with people and sell.  Offer. Something. People. Want.  Start with a ridiculously low – no brainer – price.  Ratchet it up as you can.  It’s not that hard.

What’s hard is dealing with the success that comes from it.


When you fixate on one client, it makes it less likely that you sell them, or anyone.  When I’ve believed that one client was going to be my meal ticket, the end-all, be all it’s rarely worked out that way. Instead, it becomes rougher than it should be.

Selling to an audience of one is tough, because eventually they pick up on the clues. If you want something, and are less than candid on it, you reveal things in the nonverbal communication. The lack of candor undermines the relationship.  Fixating on one client means that you lose power to them.

That’s why it’s better to be catholic about who you sell to.  Broadly speaking, there are dozens of people I’d be happy to work with.  Broadly speaking, I know that I’ll grow my business with or without any particular deal. I am getting the at bats.  I close one in 3.  (1/3 I reject, 1/3 I would like but don’t get, and 1/3 I would like.)

When we get fixated on people, it’s tougher.  The percentage doesn’t change much, but you lose dignity unless it’s done with earnestness and the verve and moxie of a romantic suitor.

Sunday Mornings

On Sunday Mornings, and even sometimes on Saturday Mornings, my dad would make pancakes. It was a nice treat, I got it just about every weekend, and when I realized it was the weekend, I would be excited in advance.  I’d usually wake up an hour or so before my parents did.  On Saturdays, I’d watch Superfriends or some tripe on TV, and then, eventually, Dad would come down.  On Sundays, the television fare for a child wasn’t particularly good, so I’d play with my Star Wars figures, or I’d wait.

Want pancakes, Chrisser?”  I was, at that time, never happy about being called Chrisser.  Rhymed with Pisser, a word I knew and used by the tender age of about 8.

I remember a couple of times feeling lottery-lucky when I got pancakes two days in a row.  He’d put applesauce in them sometimes, and Dad was contemptuous of the Bisquick recipe.   No, he did it himself.  Didn’t take any extra time, and you had pancakes with substance. I remember our house always felt cold in the mornings.  I had a brown robe, and some Empire Strikes Back PJs.  That would put me at 7 or 8.

Mom worked second shift. it seemed every other weekend.  I looked forward to the weekends when Mom didn’t work.  It usually meant that we’d get to go somewhere.  (When I was about 14, it seems that mom couldn’t spend enough time at work, but that’s the way it always is with 14 year olds).

Dad got up first. I remember watching Sunday Morning with Walter Chronkite.  It usually ended with something fairly reflective, footage of hummingbirds or streams or whatever.  I looked forward to that.  Sometimes Dad would put on Crossfire after, or at least that’s how I remember it.  Our black and white TV occupied a variety of positions in our kitchen.

I got pancakes one at a time, as they came off the skillet.  I didn’t need any butter, they were lightly fried with a tiny bit of butter.  Sometimes they’d be crispy on top and almost liquid in the center.  They always had more texture than what you get at Denny’s or just about any place other than iHop.

One morning, I was awake and Dad had cooked the first pancake.  He had a cast iron skillet.  That meant that the first one was always a crap-shoot, unless you were really sure that the skillet was hot.  He would often as not simply preemptively pitch it. I was aghast at that! It might be terrible, but even so, the waste of an almost good pancake was a travesty.

The pancake feast would linger on for a while, Dad would feed me a pancake, cook one for himself, and eat them until the batter was gone. I usually had a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice.

Towards the end of the Sunday routine, on days she worked, Mom would come down the stairs and make tea.  Until I was probably about 8, I wanted to sit in her lap at some point.  She’d have a Lenders bagel, or Rye Crisp with cracker barrel cheese.  She was always happy to see me.  There was a recurring struggle in our house.  Mom was convinced that, left to his own devices, Dad would take a really hot pan and immerse it in cold water, causing it to warp.  More than once, a reminder to let the pan cool would be met with a fairly testy “I know, I know,” or something like it.

One morning I remember waiting for my pancake.  I hoped that Dad would remember on his own to warm up the syrup.  Often he did, and that detail made me feel really happy and loved.  On days he didn’t, I was more disappointed than I should be.  I would sit in agony if he hadn’t started heating the syrup.  I wonder why it never occurred to me to ask….

If we live to be about 80, we only get 4,000 sundays in our lives.  As children between 3 and 13 we only get 500 or so.  It seems like a lot, but each day is precious. We won’t have another like it.   I worry that I’m not doing enough to make Ruby and Jack feel beloved.  I worry that I’m letting work, testiness and other things mount and get to us.


I Need You To Do This.

We’ve gotten a lot of leads from all over the place.  Often, a new contact comes to our site and starts a message with:

“We have a product that’s identical to _______, we need you to make a video that’s very similar by the end of next month.”

While I call everyone back, I’m always leery of dealing with this sort of person. They are signaling some sort of myopic selfishness.  A false urgency.  An unpleasantness and a demanding personality. I never give them price breaks, and I don’t make any concessions.  I’m happy to let them think I’m a bad salesperson that “blew an easy sale.”  That’s fine.

People that presume we’ll take everyone that works with us, that we’re so hungry that we’ll price compete generally waste my time. If we happen to close the sale- and it’s been this way for everything I’ve sold from mortgages to movies, it’ll be an antagonistic process.

Because, the truth is, life is short.  Dealing with an agonizing customer for $15,000 or whatever it winds up being isn’t worth it.  It’s not worth it to deal with assholes without having the upper hand.  It’s exhausting to have to always be on guard and it’s particularly tedious when your customers say things like “I bet you’re excited because you got to make a sale.”

Assuming that the person won’t want to do business with you is a better way to start. Even when it’s not right, the reflex reaction is “oh yes we will.”  You don’t feel bossed around by someone so you don’t react negatively. Being that “Type A” rarely gets you much.